Let’s face it. Ten minutes into leg one of the conference semi-finals, the Seattle Sounders were sitting exactly where they wanted to be. They applied pressure early, had legitimate chances in the box, and capped it off by an excellent cross and finish from Cristian Roldan to Raul Ruidiaz. Unfortunately, from that point forward it was bad break after bad break.
In the end, the Sounders were defeated 1-2 in the first leg, but face a deficit larger than one goal.
Reported on Tuesday, Chad Marshall is officially out of conference semi-finals after having meniscus surgery on his injured knee. Less daunting, but still injured, Cristian Roldan who exited with a hip flexor injury will be a game-time decision.
Chad Marshall started 30 games this season and Roldan started a perfect 34. The two combined for over 5500 minutes and it’s possible that the Sounders could be without both for the second leg.
Waylon Francis replaced Cristian Roldan and Román Torres replaced Chad Marshall. Whether head coach Brian Schmetzer decides to use either in the starting eleven for the second leg is still up in the air.
Portland, on the other hand, will see a familiar face return to the squad. Larrys Mabiala is eligible to return after serving a one-game suspension for a red card shown to him during the knockout round.
His return results in a key matchup for Ruidiaz and the Sounders to advance. Mabiala is a tall central defender with dominance in the air but struggles in 1v1 defending. Fortunately for Ruidiaz, he is not an aerial threat, but a striker who beats defenders with quick turns and sharp shooting.
So how do the Sounders advance? A 1-0 victory would seal the deal. They would tie up the aggregate score and move forward on the away goals tie-breaker. However, if Portland manages to score an away goal of their own, advancing becomes a more daunting task. Below is a chart (up to five goals per side) showing how all scenarios can shake out.
Seattle holds a favorable 7-2-3 record versus the Timbers at home. Seattle’s defense, which ranks 2nd in the MLS holds teams to a devastatingly low 0.88 goals-per-game at Century Link.
The Seattle home crowd will be rowdy and ready for a comeback. After the adversity of being bottom of the table mid-season, there is no doubt the Sounders have it in them.
Leg two will be plaid at Century Link Field in Seattle, WA on Thursday, November 8th at 7:30 pm local time. The game will be televised on FS1.
Until next time, Soosh out.